Friday, 12 June 2015

Others


The rooks rule the place. Hanging above the mist, perhaps three hundred black shapes circling the field and the house below, cawing and cawing. No doubt, reasons for such behaviour can be assigned to the phenomenon, if indeed it is a phenomenon. It's entirely feasible that rooks have been circling these fields on misty mornings for five thousand years, and the appearance of human habitation is considered no more than a temporary land feature, like the river Wensum bursting its banks in a winter flood, or the trees slowly losing their leaves to reveal bones of oak, bones of beech - places for rooks to settle.

I once saw something similar occur on the island where I used to live, along the Essex coast. Upwards of a thousand birds, mainly, it seemed, various gull species, circled in a rising, conical spiral, to a great height. In fact, their individual positions as they circled seemed to define the cone shape. I thought perhaps that it was an unusual, rising current of air that they were caught in, but as I sat watching them for nearly an hour, I became aware of two things. Firstly, other gulls were approaching from the sea and purposefully joining the congregation, and secondly, none of the birds made a sound. The great, rising spiral of birds moved in perfect formation and in perfect silence. 

Some of my neighbours, older residents, could be heard beyond the garden fences, discussing the spectacle, and the fact that none of them, lone-time islanders, had ever previously witnessed any thing like it.

Rooks are different. Moving with equal purpose, the noise - indeed, it is noise rather than song - carries with them as they move through the mist. There is an urgency, an insistence, in the flight and its accompanying clatter.

Then, without noticable external stimulus, they depart, these hundreds, in ones and twos, and then there is only mist, and silence.

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